Sydney shares her experiences during the fall 2019 internship presentations. (NPL Photo/Ed Brown)
When a group of college students began their internships at Nashville Public Library (NPL) this fall, they weren’t completely sure what to expect.
Months later, as they presented an overview of their diverse experiences to their library mentors and other staff, they had reached one shared conclusion — they’d all been part of something truly special.
Building a Legacy of Powerful Women
For Sydney, the most rewarding part of her internship was contributing to something permanent.
A Law, History and Society major at Vanderbilt University, Sydney completed a Gender Studies internship with the library’s Special Collections division, which archives oral histories and historic materials from Nashville’s history. She spent much of her time preparing Votes for Women (VFW), a permanent exhibit about the history of women in American society, to open in 2020.
Sydney selected moments from suffragist history to appear on the VFW timeline, which will highlight key points in the suffragist movement; crafted content to include in the exhibit; and contributed her own ideas to make the space an ideas lab for discussions about issues of equality and empowerment today.
Sydney found inspiration in the powerful women she read about and in her mentors Andrea Blackman and Tasneem Tewogbola. As she developed her skills, these women created a supportive environment where Sydney could thrive.
“This internship has been incredibly helpful for me,” Sydney said. “Tas and Andrea always listened to my ideas and seriously considered my opinions. It’s been very empowering to have my voice heard.”
Sydney said that her time at NPL strengthened her love of history, and that while she plans to attend law school, she may pursue a doctorate in history in the future.
Marina, left, and Helen Sanders, academic outreach specialist with Volunteer Services, listen to presentations. (NPL Photo/Ed Brown)
Chronicling Nashville’s Circuit Court History
If you had to archive nearly 800 individual civil court cases, spanning more than 100 years, where would you start?
That was the challenge that Marina, also a Law, History and Society major at Vanderbilt, faced. She archived cases from the first, second, and third circuit courts for Davidson County from 1840 – 1940 in the Metro Archives under the guidance of Ken Feith and Kelley Sirko. Metro Archives is a collection of original records from governments of Nashville, Davidson County, and the Metropolitan Government.
“We opened up this box not knowing exactly what we’d find,” Marina said. “From there, we had to figure out what each case was about ... and how to sort them so that people could quickly find them.”
The cursive writing and legal terminology used in the documents posed an additional challenge. To succeed, Marina often had to rely on critical thinking.
“This role involved a lot of independent work. I was always asking myself, ‘What is the best decision I can make with what I have?’” Marina said, “Kelley and Ken have been fantastic mentors, but ultimately, I had to learn to use my own judgment.”
Marina’s research yielded some fascinating discoveries about the history of Nashville.
“In the mid- to late-1800s, you saw a lot of cases dealing with disputes over money. By 1900, I saw a huge increase in the number of divorce cases,” Marina said. “In one case, a business owner had 150 barrels of whiskey shipped from Cincinnati [Ohio] to store in Nashville. The Union soldiers occupying Nashville at the time drank them all. The owner was understandably upset!”
Marina is thankful for the experiences she’s had at NPL. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science after she graduates in December.
Brooke gleefully recounts her many discoveries at NPL. (NPL Photo/Ed Brown)
Exploring Different Paths in Libraries
Many people believe that libraries only offer books. Brooke would tell them just how wrong that perception is.
A Master of Science in Information Sciences student at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Brooke completed NPL’s Library Practicum. The program exposes graduate students seeking a career in libraries to the many areas they can work in.
For Brooke, that meant spending time in each of the Main Library’s departments and working at three other NPL locations. Reshelving books, pulling hold requests, and interacting with customers at the desk were just a few of the many tasks she completed.
“I’m drawn to libraries because I love interacting with people,” Brooke said. “The practicum gave me the opportunity to experience almost every part of NPL while helping visitors. It re-emphasized that this what I want to do for a career.”
While she expected to find a wide array of literary resources, many of NPL’s programs came as a pleasant surprise. She had particular praise for the Limitless Libraries program, which allows all of Metro Nashville Public Schools’ students, teachers, and librarians to borrow from NPL’s collections and have them delivered to their school.
“I didn’t realize that the library had something like Limitless Libraries,” Brooke said. “Allowing public schools to access your collection is such a great idea, and when you think about it, it makes perfect sense that a library would have it.”
With her time at NPL coming to an end, Brooke plans to finish her master’s degree and seek a position in a library system.
Learning to Communicate
When Macy, a Public Relations senior at Belmont University, began her internship, her mind was brimming with questions.
She wondered if working in an office setting would suit her, and what being a part of a professional team would be like. She was also curious to see if what she was learning in her communications classes applied in the real world.
After nearly four months with the Nashville Public Library Foundation (NPLF), a 501(c)3 non-profit that raises funds for the library, Macy had found many of the answers she sought.
“The biggest takeaway for me is learning that I enjoy this environment, and the structure it offers,” Macy said. “I’ve learned how to tailor my messaging when interacting with supervisors, peers, and our audience. That alone has been worth the experience.”
Macy’s primary job was creating and sharing content on NPLF’s Facebook page. It was her first exposure to Facebook Analytics, which lets administrators see how visitors interact with their pages. She not only learned how the powerful tool works — she used it to make improvements.
“I increased the frequency that we published content, and expanded the topics featured on our page,” Macy said. “I estimate that the foundation now has about five more people interact with each post than we did before.”
Macy credits her mentor, Mary Brenna Corr, for making the library a place she could learn, grow, and discover the answers she sought.
Find Your Path with an NPL Internship
In spring 2020, NPL will welcome a new group of interns to explore the opportunities the library offers.
Only a single internship with the library’s Seed Exchange program remains. The initiative allows students interested in sustainability, local food production, or nutrition to make an immediate impact in Nashville’s communities.
Learn more about the Seed Exchange internship and submit your application on the Volunteer Services page.
Missed the spring program you wanted? Don’t worry. NPL has some great internships launching in summer 2020. Stay tuned to the Volunteer Services webpage for updates.